Hungary WTCC: Lopez sees off Coronel in qualifying
Jose Maria Lopez claimed pole position for the third round of the World Touring Car Championship at the Hungaroring, and retook the standings lead by two points ahead of Honda’s Tiago Monteiro,
Lopez's closest challenge, however, surprisingly came from ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel, who took a career-best second in the Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1.
There was high drama in the first part of qualifying after the two factory Citroens both set overly conservative first laps on their first runs and were forced to push hard on their second run as they fell outside of the all-important top 12 cut-off.
Lopez bounced back to set the fastest time on his second run, but a mistake for Yvan Muller on his flying lap saw him under serious threat, at that point only 15th.
The four-time champion was forced to try and set a lap good enough for Q2 with a second flying lap on his Yokohama tyres and initially went tenth-fastest, but further improvements for Volvo’s Fredrik Ekblom and Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Tom Chilton saw the Frenchman at risk again in 12th.
Hugo Valente’s Lada was his final threat, but the 23-year-old was unable to improve, leaving Muller able to progress into Q2.
The second part of qualifying was action-packed as well, with Lopez setting a time of 1:46.487 which kept him on top ahead of Volvo’s Bjork for the bulk of the ten-minute qualifying segment.
Honda’s Rob Huff set a late flyer to go P1 and safely into the top-five one-lap shootout Q3, with Bjrk just making it through when he dropped to P5 behind Lopez, Monteiro and Coronel.
After his escape from Q1, Muller could only manage eighth in Q2, which converts into third for the reversed-grid opening race, while the front row will be shared by Volvo’s Fredrik Ekblom with Mehdi Bennani’s SLR Citroen on pole position.
In the pole shoot-out, Bjork’s opening time was a safe one of 1m46.980s, but the Swede was soon outdone by Coronel, with the Dutchman having shown incredible pace in the first sector throughout qualifying in his ballast-free Chevrolet.
Monteiro followed on track, but the championship leader was unable to improve on Coronel’s time. However, there was no stopping reigning champion Lopez, who would break the lap record with a time of 1:46.109, 2.6 seconds faster than last year’s record on the newly resurfaced circuit.
Huff was last to run, but a mistake in the first sector meant the 2012 champion qualified in third, with Lopez and Coronel confirmed to share the front row in Sunday’s main race.
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes
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